Game Day: Nebraska vs. Rutgers

Signs of life

A clean bill of health for Nebraska's defense will be vital for a win against Rutgers on Saturday. home against Iowa. “We’re still not totally there, but we’re close,” coach Mike Riley said this week. “Now we’re still on the edge with a couple guys after this last game of being healthy, but we certainly are in better shape and, yes, I think it does make a difference.”

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Rutgers rush defense

Nebraska's run offense has been inconsistent for the entire season, producing surprisingly good numbers against Wisconsin (196 yards) and Michigan State (179), while bottoming out against Northwestern (82) and the worst rush defense in the Big Ten, Purdue (77 yards). NU's lack of consistency can be traced back to average line play, an inability for one back — be it Terrell Newby or Imani Cross — to really own the starting job and a diminished focus on quarterback Tommy Armstrong's wheels. Rutgers defense allows 4.51 yards per rush, sandwiched in between Northwestern and Purdue. Because the Scarlet Knights like to stunt and junk it up a lot, NU will have to communicate well.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Rutgers pass defense

Rutgers is an overmatched team when it comes to pass defense. How overmatched? It has a lower pass efficiency rating than Nebraska's pass defense. So there you go. The Scarlet Knights have only notched 11 sacks this year, may start three freshman in the secondary and have given up nine yards per pass attempt this season. In the Big Ten, this number balloons to 10.1 yards. No Power Five team has been north of ten yards allowed per pass since 2012. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong and his wideouts are a little beat up, but also hitting their stride.

Rutgers rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Rutgers makes a concerted effort to run the ball, averaging 38 carries per game and a serviceable 4.38 yards per carry. Nebraska makes a more concerted effort, however, to stop the run, which serves the Huskers well. Nebraska's front seven is perhaps healthier than it has been at any time since the season opener.

Rutgers pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

When healthy or not suspended, Leonte Carroo is probably the best wideout in the Big Ten. He has 24 catches in five games — with nine touchdowns. He's a big play guy. He's also missed the last two-and-a-half games because of a high ankle sprain. He's scheduled to return to play against Nebraska, but it's hard to tell how close he'll be to 100 percent. Nebraska's pass defense hasn't stopped anybody in the Big Ten. Not when it counted, and not when the opponent actually tried to pass. Rutgers may have a mediocre quarterback in Chris Laviano, but he'll have some success against Nebraska. Every other quarterback does.

Special teams

If Drew Brown (on kickoffs) and Sam Foltz (on punts) can keep the ball away from the nation's best kick returner, Janarion Grant, then Nebraska should be fine. But Grant has four return touchdowns for a reason. Count on him breaking at least one against the Huskers. NU's own return game is getting better thanks to kick returner Stanley Morgan, but Grant is the real X factor.

Intangibles

Rutgers has to win out to make a bowl — Nebraska, in theory, only has to win five to have a good shot — and Nebraska is the key game in the final stretch. Beat the Huskers, and beating Army and Maryland look pretty easy. Rutgers clearly didn't want to risk Carroo for road games at Wisconsin and Michigan, so the Scarlet Knights have circled this game. Nebraska circled Michigan State and won it. Now the Huskers will be right back where they were against Illinois and Purdue. NU flunked both those tests. There's no particular reason to think they'll learn their motivation lesson at Rutgers.

Key matchup: Nebraska's offensive line vs. Rutgers defensive line

The Huskers pushed Rutgers all over the field last year, racking up 7.12 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights are ground down to bits by three punishing games in a row. NU needs to come out, establish the ground game and make Rutgers want to quit. It's questionable, however, whether this bunch is capable of that.

Our take

Just like Northwestern and Purdue were traps for Nebraska, so, too, is Rutgers. The Huskers have to manage their emotions and expectations the right way. If they do, they'll be fine, because they'll wear down Rutgers with superior talent and depth. If they get complacent or lazy, they'll lose, blunting all of the good energy they gained from the Michigan State game. We're in a charitable mood.

Our prediction: Nebraska 35, Rutgers 31

Live updates

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 1 p.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Rutgers matchup provided by the NU Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Shatel: A near-perfect night for Husker fans filled with hope, frustration and euphoria

What a night to be alive in Lincoln. On a mild December Saturday night, the Haymarket was electric, buzzing with pride and excitement and anticipation.

Scott Frost's appearance at Nebraska basketball game sends fans into a frenzy

Few knew for certain the newly-hired coach would make an appearance Saturday night for the men's basketball game against No. 13 Kansas until the hanging video boards "froze over" during pregame introductions and began showing photos and clips of Frost's…

UCF's final games don't tell entire story of new Husker defensive coordinator Erik Chinander

Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator stressed takeaways and sacks in turning around UCF.

North Platte's Bryson Krull is Nebraska's latest preferred walk-on commit

North Platte senior Bryson Krull is a big, physical wide receiver with sure hands, and the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is the latest in-state player to commit to walking on at Nebraska.

Another honor possible as Scott Frost is named one of seven finalists for the Dodd Trophy

Scott Frost is a candidate for another postseason honor.

Bellevue West lineman AJ Forbes, Millard West running back Brody Belt commit to walk on at Nebraska

Bellevue West lineman AJ Forbes has scholarship offers from virtually every Division II school in the area. On Thursday night Forbes committed to walk-on at Nebraska.

Lincoln Southeast's Bryson Williams will sign with Wisconsin despite late interest from Nebraska

Lincoln Southeast defensive lineman Bryson Williams has decided to shut down his recruitment and will not be taking an official visit to Nebraska this weekend.

Chris Weber becomes Nebraska football's 70th first-team Academic All-American

Chris Weber is Nebraska football's 108th Academic All-American — most of any program in collegiate athletics — and the 70th first-team selection. Nebraska also has a nation-leading 330 Academic All-Americans across all sports.

Recruiting: Decision for do-everything athlete Marcus Riley likely hinges on Nebraska visit this weekend

Marcus Riley has been committed to Louisville since July 2016. Until recently, he was strong in that conviction. Things got interesting when Riley was among the dozen or so offers sent out by Nebraska the day after Scott Frost's hiring…

TBL: QB commit Adrian Martinez confident he can help 'get this thing turned around' at Nebraska

Martinez said that Thursday during an interview on "The Bottom Line," less than 24 hours after he announced his commitment to Nebraska. He added that fans can believe in Scott Frost, and the Huskers will "work our tails off" for…

Scott Frost named 2017 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year recipient

It only took Scott Frost two seasons as a head coach to win one of the biggest honors in college football.

Nebraska keeps walk-on commitments rolling with Chris Cassidy, Jake Archer

Nebraska has added two more preferred walk-on commits. Lincoln Pius X senior Chris Cassidy informed The World-Herald of his commitment Thursday morning, and Omaha Skutt's Jake Archer announced his decision on Twitter.

Carriker Chronicles: Husker QB commit plus NU volleyball picks

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Thursday's episode, Carriker is joined by one of his daughters to give his quick take to the Huskers' landing a QB commit, talk about how players react…

Long before cable TV, Husker fans stared at the side of a building and got 'live' coverage on the Grid-O-Graph – a miracle of modern technology

Imagine a time when you couldn't follow a Husker football game or know its outcome until the next day's newspaper landed on your doorstep. For diehard fans in the 21st century, that would be torture. In the first quarter of…

College sports programs could pay millions in new taxes under GOP proposals

Pending Republican tax proposals could put the squeeze on big-time college sport programs.

Recruiting: Diverse group will be on hand for new Husker coaching staff looking for speed

In less than two weeks on the job, Nebraska’s staff has sent out more than 70 known offers to prospects from the Class of 2018 and beyond. Players big and small. From the West Coast and East Coast. In junior…

Recruiting: Collin Shefke and Wyatt Liewer accept preferred walk-on spots at Husker event

Nebraska’s walk-on event Wednesday landed commitments from Lincoln Southwest’s Collin Shefke and O’Neill’s Wyatt Liewer. Liewer received a preferred walk-on offer Oct. 8. Shefke received his offer Wednesday.

Intrigue in Scott Frost, matchup helped UCF's bowl game become hot ticket for some Husker fans

Nebraska fans travel well. There was the invasion of Notre Dame in 2000. Taking over Northwestern in 2014. Tack on another badge: the constant presence at Central Florida games in 2017.

Recruiting: Husker walk-on event draws large response from in-state prospects

Nebraska sent out invitations and used the hashtag #HomeGrown to bring prospects to its walk-on event on Wednesday night.

Recruiting: Scott Frost’s staff thinking big with receivers for the 2018 recruiting class

Size. Nebraska’s new coaching staff clearly wants it from the receivers and tight ends who may join the Huskers’ 2018 recruiting class.

McKewon: Four quick takes on Adrian Martinez's commitment to Nebraska

Nebraska has landed Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West quarterback Adrian Martinez, who committed to the Huskers on Wednesday. Quick takes on Martinez’s decision and what it means for the Huskers.

Recruiting: Scott Frost, assistants doing double duty with help of red-eye flights

New Nebraska coach Scott Frost will have some story to tell after signing day. Frost has committed to lead Central Florida in its quest to finish an undefeated season and win the Peach Bowl over Auburn. That's one thing. He's…

Recruiting: Nebraska kicker commit Barret Pickering part of new coaching staff's plans

Barret Pickering has been busy. And that won't be changing anytime soon for Nebraska's reaffirmed incoming kicker.

Carriker Chronicles: John Cook on the Huskers' match against Penn State in the final four and more

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Wednesday's episode, Carriker is joined by NU volleyball coach John Cook to preview the Huskers' match against Penn State in the NCAA tournament final four.

Adrian Martinez becomes Scott Frost's first quarterback recruit; Dual-threat QB will enroll early at Nebraska

Adrian Martinez — a consensus four-star prospect who’s a top-100 recruit according to ESPN — is now a Husker, announcing his decision Wednesday to pick Nebraska over Tennessee. He’ll enroll early at NU and try to win the starting job…

Pick Six Podcast: Early days of Scott Frost's Nebraska coaching tenure

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Evan Bland tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the Dec. 12 episode of the "Pick Six Podcast."

Best of TBL, Dec. 12: Sam McKewon, Adam Carriker, Gibbie Duval and Mike Alessandro

Nebraska football recruiting and strength and conditioning were topics Tuesday on "The Bottom Line," when World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon and former Husker Adam Carriker were among the guests.

Recruiting: Nebraska needs a great pass rusher, and a California junior college may have the answer

Sometimes, football players need a year to grow into their frames after high school. That’s the story of one Nebraska official visitor this weekend, City College of San Francisco pass rusher Jordan Allen.

Carriker Chronicles: Scott Frost, Huskers quickly hitting stride on recruiting trail

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Tuesday's episode, Carriker talks about a busy Sunday in Nebraska recruiting news and what's next on the agenda.

Recruiting: Iowa Western offensive lineman Noah Banks doesn’t make Nebraska visit as planned

Iowa Western offensive lineman Noah Banks did not visit Nebraska on Tuesday as originally planned and is making other options higher priorities as the junior-college national signing day approaches.